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LAYERS Solo Exhibition | Contemporary Art Platform (CAP) Kuwait

Malu Halasa | Beyond Palestine

Independence positions Sabella inside the major visual movement of our times. The current obsession with incessant image-making has transformed the way the visual image is created, distributed and seen/experienced. A case in point is the rise of low-resolution or pixilated images, particularly in light of the explosion of social media, citizen journalism and moving and still imagery from Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia over the last three years. While the distance between low-res images and the art gallery is not well traversed, Sabella is not only undeterred, but defiant.

“I didn’t need a Hasselblad. I didn’t need a camera. I was in the moment and the only thing that was going to make the image was my smart phone. Nothing is going to stop me from creating that image. For me, it was also independence from the medium.”


Afterimage Journal | SETH THOMPSON

Born in Jerusalem, Sabella, who often considers the plight and struggle of the Palestinian people within his work, had at first glance appeared to deviate from this course when he created his Independence series, a body of photographic works realized in 2013. The exhibition at Meem Gallery consisted of seventeen deliberately grainy images of figures floating in an abyss-like sea of blackened water. The bodies are distorted and ambiguous and could even be described as painterly, as their representa­tion within the water appears almost to be created with gestural brush strokes. The images were bonded directly onto acrylic sheets using the diasec process, which give the two-dimensional photographs a sheen-like quality.


Unlike the aforementioned fractured constellations, Independence is viscerally and deceptively whole. It is a new visual experience, wherein the only borders lie on the images’ edges themselves, and the outlines of the figures contained within them appear intact. The two females – one appearing young, the other older – could be floating or flying. Some of the images in the series are monological, though most portray the characters engaging in an intimate gestural dance. On closer inspection, fragmentation emerges. What could possibly be parts of bone or metal appear on or beneath the surface of their diaphanous skin. Lacking any facial detail, they are stripped of characteristics that could convey expressions, left with the sole sense of touch. Amidst a dark void, they appear in blurred obscurity, like anonymous forms suspended in extremis.

Madeline Yale Preston | Free-Falling Into the Future
IIndependence Solo Exhibition Catalogue | Meem Gallery | Dubai

Steve Sabella Photography 1997-2014

Hubertus Von Amelunxen

In Sabella’s more recent work Independence there is a pictorial state of uncertainty that abandons the coordinates of space and therefore of history.


Kevin Jones | ARTFORUM

If Steve Sabella’s 2013 series “Independence” were music, it would be trip-hop—a suave, steady beat wrapped in a sullen, ethereal pall, at once spirited and weighty… The ambivalent, distended bodies depicted are themselves textured by scales of light and shown as if in free fall or blurred by nebulous fluid.

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An Artist Examines the Israel-Palestine Conflict in Dark, Ambiguous Photographs

Stephen Dillon | Artsy Editorial

There is beauty in the distortions of their bodies in the refracted water, but they are also made to appear fractured and incomplete by the warping ripples. Many of the images are oriented vertically, so that bodies appear to be falling or flying. In one, a woman reaches upward, while another ambiguous person—they are so obscured that we cannot be sure of their age or gender—reaches down to them through the inky blackness. They seem peaceful, but nonetheless straining for connection.

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The Installation


Installation at Scavi Scaligeri Museum | Verona Also exhibited as an installation of animated projections on six double-sided screens hung in dark space

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Contemporary Art Platform | CAP Kuwait

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Meem Gallery | Dubai

Solo Exhibition | Independence

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mounted on matt diasec

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